Return To Hell!
If you’ve never played a Disgaea game before, the premise is fairly simple. The series follows a group of rag-tag group of demons (and a few angels too) as they try and take over the world—or order take-out food. Most of its charm comes from the game’s irreverent take on plot, pop culture, and self-referential jokes.
Disgaea 4 takes the exact same approach as its predecessors. The story this time focuses on the vampire Valvatorez, who made a promise to scare a girl he met 400 years before. Valvatorez’s powers have been in decline since this particular instance, and he finds himself entangled in the Netherworld’s bureaucracy. So what’s a vampire to do? Become the overlord and try and destroy the Earth, of course.
The story is completely over the top and crazy, but it’s exactly what fans of the series expect. If you have yet to jump into the Disgaea series, you don’t really need to worry about previous events in the series, as Disgaea 4 gives you the basic setup pretty quickly. Sure, you might not get all the jokes, but you’ll laugh hard enough when everything from pop culture icons to RPG conventions to even the President of the United States get completely skewered by the cast of Disgaea 4.
Although the story is an amazing part of Disgaea 4, the best reason to check this game out is for the battle system. Though the turn-based RPG series has been going the way of the dinosaur (at least on consoles) in recent years, Disgaea 4 is more than happy to satisfy those of us who still have a soft spot for strategy-based play. When battle is initiated, the game places you on a familiar grid. You’ll have to summon heroes from a central point (when and how you deploy your units is completely up to you) and then place them in a 3D space fraught with obstacles and stacked enemies.
Interestingly, instead of just challenging you to use your regular, defensive, and special attacks in the right order, Disgaea 4 challenges you to use your environment to your advantage. You can use Geo Blocks to dole out bonuses (or avoid traps) and can pick up and throw obstacles to create an easier path to enemies. You can even stack characters into towers to create one-of-a-kind combination attacks.
The battle system is quite deep, and there are hundreds of ways you can approach each battle. However, even more depth is piled on when you add character customization to the mix. Though each character has a predetermined class assigned to them, weapons-based attacks, “evilities,” and, of course, magic attributes can all be customized to the Nth degree. Though you don’t have to be a menu junkie to really enjoy Disgaea 4, the game absolutely rewards those who take the time to dive in head-first into its character customization system. The result is gameplay that can last nearly 50 hours.
And that’s just the regular story mode. Like previous Disgaea games, Disgaea 4 has a lengthy post-game campaign. Be aware, though, the post-game is not for the faint of heart. Once again, the level cap is set to 9999, and you’ll be surprised just how close you’ll have to come to that in order to get through the post-game content. If you absolutely love the grind, Disgaea 4 will satisfy you. Though the turn-based RPG scene is small, this might be the last game you’ll need to get you through the fall. It’s that long.
If you need even more reason to get lost in the whimsical world of Disgaea, there is an online component to the game as well. You can infiltrate other players’ senates and spread corruption, or play it safe and compare stats. Though the online mode isn’t an essential part of the game, it’s a nice little bonus for those who choose to take advantage of it.
Visually, Disgaea 4 is in pretty good shape. Though nearly every battle stage looks about the same (but with different color palates), characters are all presented in HD and all the stock Disgaea art has been redone to take advantage of the game’s higher resolution. Animations are all very smooth, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-looking game of this type anywhere other than the PlayStation 3. Sound in the game is also very well done, with some excellent vocal performances by the Disgaea cast and a whimsical score to accompany the action. Production values for Disgaea 4 definitely exceed expectations, and the game’s technical aspects are all executed wonderfully.
Between the over-the top story and the amazingly deep gameplay, I have to say that Disgaea 4 is a great game for fans of the genre. The game doesn’t go out of its way to appeal to those that are outside its targeted demographic, and in a way, I think this makes Disgaea 4 that much more endearing. The game has a firm grip on its identity and knows who it is playing to. It’s difficult, deep, and will definitely make you work hard for success. I can’t think of a better turn-based RPG that has come out in the past year. Though there isn’t that much competition, it is still the demanding game that fans have come to expect from Disgaea.
In a fall crowded with sequels, it is very possible that Disgaea 4 will get lost in the shuffle. And that’s probably a good thing if you’re expecting a high-energy title with an emotionally resonating story. However, if you feel like the best games are those that involve combing though menus, analyzing stats, and carefully plotting out hour-long battles, then Disgaea 4 is quite simply a can’t-miss title. Plus, can you really say no to an oh-so-cute exploding Prinny? I didn’t think so, dood!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
HD visuals and redone artwork look absolutely brilliant. 4.1 Control
Menu-based controls are a breeze to use. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice acting is solid, and music sounds great. 4.8 Play Value
With a lengthy main campaign and post game content that can only be described as “epic,” Disgaea 4 will definitely keep you playing for quite a while. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best